Re: Incentives and self-archiving

From: Peter Singer <peter.singer_at_UTORONTO.CA>
Date: Sun, 18 Feb 2001 15:53:48 -0500

Stevan's email has helped to sharpen the debate. He is right that we will
not know whether self-archiving will really have uptake (or optimal uptake)
until it is readily available to researchers. Nothing in the concerns I
raise about incentives in any way should be viewed as slowing down the
effort to make open archives readily available. So, Stevan, when do you
expect this threshhold of ready availability will be reached?

At that point, my hypothesis is that we will see sub-optimal use of self-
archiving in medicine. I believe this will result from the incentive
barriers i describe. Whether my hypothesis is true will become evident
once the threshhold of ready availability of open archives is reached.

The preliminary evidence supporting the hypothesis is that the BMJ
Netprints preprint server has not caught on the way the Los Alamos physics
one did a decade or so ago. I think this is becasue of the incentives in
medicine to publish in brand name journals that disallow prepublication.
Presumably the physics journals do not have restrictive prepublication
policies, yes (ie no "Ingelfinger-like rule")?

Stevan is also correct in pointing out that i do not have a sharply
defined, demonstrated, quality assessment method for research articles that
would provide an alternative to the journal brand name system. I have
sketched a conceptual framework for the alternative in . Developing this further
will require research and development. It is precisely initiatives such as
open archives or biomedcentral (because of its peer review light feature)
that will serve as the laboratories for such R & D. The R & D will
obviously not be required for the purpose of freeing the literature if my
hypothesis proves false or the remaining name-brand journals drop their
objections to pre-publication as Stevan predicts they will.

However, if my hypothesis proves true (which i think it will), and the
remaining name-brand journals persist with restrictive pre-publication
policies (and frankly i do not see the NEJM backing away from the
Ingelfinger rule any time soon), then realigning incentives by producing
brand-name independent quality measures and incorporating them into the
incentive system in medicine will become the crucial step to free that

I am not sure we can go much further with this debate in the abstract. We
need more data now which we should have as the open archives initiative
unfolds. However, i think i have shown why the issue of incentives should
stay within the scope of a discussion on open archives.


Peter A. Singer, MD, MPH, FRCPC
Sun Life Chair in Bioethics and Director,
University of Toronto Joint Centre for Bioethics
Professor of Medicine, University of Toronto
Canadian Institutes of Health Research Investigator
Associate Editor, Canadian Medical Association Journal

fax: 416-978-1911
phone: 416-978-4756
mail: 88 College St., Toronto ON Canada M5G-1L4
Received on Wed Jan 03 2001 - 19:17:43 GMT

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